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Colorado Supreme Court tackles excessive discovery

Trial courts should play a more active role in managing discovery objections, the high court ruled

Much has been written about the onerousness of overly broad discovery requests. Now Colorado’s high court is fighting back against excessive discovery with its ruling that trial courts should take a more active approach when it comes to addressing such requests.

The ruling came as part of breach of contract litigation between the oil and gas companies DCP Midstream and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. During the discovery phase, DCP sent Anadarko 58 requests for millions of pages of documents. Anadarko refused to comply, arguing that many of the requests were not related to the breach of contract claims and thus were outside the scope of discovery.

The trial court ordered Anadarko to produce the desired records, ruling that the broader request may turn up documents that would later turn out to be relevant. Although the court advised the parties to cooperate and narrow the discovery request, it maintained that it did not “have the power to make [them] do that.”

The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed, however. In its ruling, it opined that Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1)—which is similar to its federal counterpart—requires trial courts to “determine the appropriate scope of discovery in light of the reasonable needs of the case and tailor discovery to those needs.”

At the very least, the court said, trial courts should consider the cost-benefit and proportionality factors laid out in the rule.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

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